Vive Le Pain

One of my most vivid memories of Paris is not standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower or touring the opera house. No, the thing that often comes first to my mind when I think of Paris is the time we walked down the street knawing on baguettes we bought at Paul, a chain bakery a friend of mine later called “The French McDonald’s”. It was our second day in the city, and we were on a (incredibly disorganized) walking tour. We thought we looked so Parisian enjoying fresh bread, but I’ve since learned that it’s considered so American to eat on the go so I doubt we fooled anyone. But we enjoyed the snack that kept us from passing out in the heat as we reached mile ten that day.


I also remember visiting Shakespeare and Company the day after the walking tour – one of the most famous bookstores in the world located near Notre Dame. (You can read about this random guy who slouched all over me in the shop thinking I was in his group here.) I didn’t exactly need any more books, but when you’re an English major in Paris for the first time, you’d have to be an idiot not to buy something. So I did and later regretted not buying a tote bag, too.

Spending time in Paris reminded me that I knew nothing about the Fench Revolution which is always a topic I’ve wanted to learn more about (apart from what Les Miz has taught me – all set to a catchy score).

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Enter The Beginner’s Guide to the French Revolution by Peter Davies whose cover features Delacroix’s Lady Liberty Leading the People (1830), a painting we saw earlier that day at the Louvre (so meta). I mean, how could I not get it?

I think this photo is especially good because that random woman is reading the wall text in the corner.

At checkout, they asked me if I wanted them to stamp with their logo. Hell yes, stamp my book! I didn’t come all the way here to buy a stamp-less book like an idiot.

But in typical fashion, I read about three pages, saw something shiny, and left it to collect dust on my bookshelf. Adding it to my Books I Meant to Read list. I read it after that Marie Antoinette biography (for the sake of chronology), and then tried my hand at making French bread (a food I don’t know how to cook). And let me just say that Paul (the bakery chain or Hollywood) isn’t racing to hire me.

I used the recipe in Joy of Baking (that’s right- a recipe out of an actually book) which actually worked pretty well. Even if the loaves didn’t look particularly pretty. I think what went wrong was my over-kneading the dough so the loaves didn’t rise properly.

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Crossing “food stylist” off my list of career prospects

If you have any good French bread advice (everyone always does), let me know. I think I’d use the same recipe again, but not mix for the 12 minutes Joy recommends.

Anyway I think if the Champs-Élysées is not just around the corner like it was this summer, French bread is best enjoyed with Les Miz (That’s right Aaron Tveit [or Ramin Karimloo, depending on which adaptation you’re watching] To the barricades! With these delicious homemade baked-goods. No revolution is complete without baked-goods.) Or, you could just enjoy this from Key & Peele: 

 

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Mmmmm…carbs.

The Yellow Wallbanger


This week I tried a recipe from Gone with the Gin‘s literary cousin Tequila Mockingbird. Here all of the drinks are (excellent) puns on famous books like “Infinite Zest,” “Bridget Jones’s Daiquiri,” and “Gin Eyre” (just a few of my favorites).

I read the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman in an American literature class last spring (it was assigned at the beginning of the semester before my workload got too heavy so I actually read it, and it saved my ass in the essay on the final). It’s a pretty depressing story about a woman who is struggling with what we would diagnose today as postpartum depression, but because it was the nineteenth century, they just told her she was crazy and locked her in her room. It’s a fun read.

Don’t drinks just taste better in a cute dog glass? 

Anyway, if you feel like toasting to Ms Gillman without needing the college credit, then try this variation on a screwdriver- The Yellow Wallbanger.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces orange juice
  • 1/2 Galliano liqueur*

Combine the vodka and orange juice. Then add the liqueur so it sits on top (and gives it an extra yellow coloring).

 

*I could not find this liqueur ANYWHERE, so I used Limoncello which is so much easier to find and (I think) achieves basically the same results.

And it’s Italian so that’s fancy, right?

Let Them Eat Macarons

 

A Food I Don’t Know How to Cook 

This weekend I attempted one of my first baking experiments of the new year – specifically, macarons which I loved eating in Paris but always figured that a mere American mortal such as myself could not make the same pastry. And I wasn’t entirely wrong.

Ever the type-A student, I had to thoroughly research macrons (because I am also super cool) and turned to the ever-wise queen of cooking/entertaining/folding a fitted sheet: Martha Stewart. Her website has a basic macron recipe with a pretty helpful video which you can find here.

Macarons are a gluten-free (but don’t worry- there’s a ton of sugar in them!) sandwich cookie that actually originated in Italy in Catherine de’Medici’s court, but are now most associated with France. Basically, they involve sifting powdered sugar and almond meal and then eventually mixing that with a meringue and baking them. Then pair up the cookies by size and sandwich them with a filling (that’s usually included with the recipe).
The first time I made these, I used the Martha Stewart recipe, and it did not go super well. In the video, she talks about removing the air bubbles from the meringue – a suggestion I took very seriously and over-whipped the mixture right before piping it onto cookie sheets and the individual cookies eventually spread together. I baked them anyway, but they definitely were not a success so I threw them away and started again.

The second time I made macarons, I decided to go with this chocolate recipe that I highly recommend. This time the mixture thickened properly, and they came out pretty (and delicious)!

my food photography skills

A Book I Meant to Read

This summer I spent the Fourth of July at Absolute Monarchy HQ: Versailles (which you can read about here). Some of the people traveling in Paris with me had already been there and were not impressed so I decided to go on my own and had an amazing day! (Seriously, don’t miss it if you’re ever in Paris.) I went because I had re-watched Marie Antoinette and was curious about the French queen’s life at the palace which led to my buying Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever…and then letting it gather dust on my bookshelf once I got back to the States.


Earlier this year I finally finished the biography, and it was so good! I don’t think I really need to go over the story so I’ll say instead that Lever really captures the arc of Marie Antoinette’s life: being a young bride to an over-spending French queen to a prisoner during the French Revolution.

My favorite story is about how she built a fake peasant village on the grounds of Versailles so she could pretend to be a milkmaid…while the French people were struggling to put bread on the table.


But, seriously, Marie Antoinette is such an fascinating person, so check this biography if you’re interested…

Or, You Could:

Check out Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006). I didn’t love this movie the first time I saw it years ago, but I watched it again last March and really enjoyed it. So much so that I wrote an English lit research paper on it.
Unlike Lever, Coppola isn’t as interested in meticulously examining the queen’s life. Instead she tries to impress to the viewer how extravagantly the French monarchy lived while still making Marie and Louis XVI sympathetic figures.

P.S.

Macarons were not as difficult to make as I assumed, but they were not super easy either.

Some recipes say you can use ground almonds instead of almond meal, but having tried it both ways, the almond meal is so much better because it’s easier to sift.

Follow the time suggestions on the recipe – they really help.

You’ve Got Ale


While I was in Paris last July, a friend of mine asked me where the name “Jane Austen Drank Here” came from. I talked about it a little in an older post, but as I was thinking about working on this blog more after my study abroad, I decided to mix my way through a few of the novelty cocktail books I collected this summer. My first choice was “You’ve Got Ale” from the book “Gone with the Gin” by Tim Federele. And, yes, this is a movie-themed cocktail book.

 

 Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces ale
  • 2 ounces ginger ale
  • 2 ounces Champagne

Pour the ale into a glass. Add the ginger ale and then the Champagne.

Best when enjoyed with Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail”

The end result was good (not as heavy as I expected), but I think if I made it again, I would use an apple-flavored ale or a cider for a crisper taste. I used the dark ale because I already had it in the fridge (leftover from a game of dirty Santa last month).

 

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^^^ LOVE Nora Ephron

 

Books I Meant to Read & Foods I Don’t Know How to Cook


I stopped enjoying reading pretty early in college. I had always been an avid reader who would stay up late to finish a book (probably because I didn’t have a T.V. in my room), but toward the end of my senior year of high school and into my freshman year of college, reading became more work than fun. I was an English lit and art history double major which meant that I was CONSTANTLY reading for school, and at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was read some more. Unfortunately, I did not curb my book-buying/hoarding habits and now have a sizable library of barely-started or even unopened  books. But it’s beginning to change now that I’ve graduated and have free time – reading is relaxing again. So even though I don’t like to make resolutions in the new year, I have decided to curb my book-buying in favor of reading books I already own – like book-shopping but free!

These are, like, only a few of the books I meant to read 

College also showed me that I have no idea what I’m doing in the kitchen. Like, I can make a few pasta dishes but that’s basically it – nothing fancy. Since I’m home for a while (with my mother’s supervision who will make sure I don’t set the kitchen on fire) I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to learn how to cook. Especially now that I can use a kitchen with ample counter space and a good dishwasher (both of which my college apartment lacked). So I have no excuse.


But since I am trying to accomplish both of these un-New Year’s Resolutions, I figured why not pair them? So until I make a very sizable dent in my library, Jane Austen Drank Here will track the books I meant to read and the foods I don’t know how to cook, meaning that I’ll pair a relevant dish to whatever I’m reading – that Marie Antoinette biography and some macarons may be first on the menu… Let’s see how this goes…